Utah schools roll with the punches

Now with thousands of young members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leaving Utah’s schools to serve their religious missions, including my younger brother, these institutions of higher education are left wondering where they will fill in the gap, literally as well as fiscally.

Weber State University can expect to lose hundreds of students and thousands of dollars in future tuition revenue because of the change in our unique Utah culture. Here at The Signpost, we’ve felt the heartache of having some of our photo staff leave to serve missions.

While schools scramble to increase their budgets and finances to offset the loss of student revenue, lawmakers are trying to help by pushing a new bill that will allow out-of-state students with above-average entrance exam scores and grade point averages to receive lower tuition rates.

It will be nice to see new students attending Utah’s schools who I didn’t go to high school with and even better seeing these missionaries come back and become 20-year-old freshmen. It levels the playing field, I think, especially since I feel like I’m the last of my friends to graduate, and I’m still a sophomore (I’ll be 21 years old by the end of spring semester).

Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, introduced Bill SB 51 to the Senate on Jan. 30 and Feb. 14. The bill was forwarded from the Senate to the House, then to the standing committee for consideration. If passed, this bill will allow higher education institutions to waive all or part of the difference between resident and nonresident tuition for these students.

This break in tuition rates would entice more out-of-state students to attend universities such as WSU, and we would see an increase in university crowds and student revenue. I, personally, think this is a great idea. Not only will Utah schools see a wave of money and “diversity,” but also, I will see some fresh faces to go on dates with.

The number of missionary applications has increased dramatically since October’s session of LDS General Conference, when the church made the official announcement regarding a changed missionary age requirement. Young men are now able to serve missions at the age of 18 instead of 19, and young women are eligible to serve at age 19 instead of 21.

The church released numbers regarding the increase of applications that are opened and started on their website. According to the church’s statement released on Oct. 23, 2012, the number of applications increased from approximately 400 a week to 7,000. Before the announcement was made, roughly 15 percent of applicants were women, and now it is slightly over 50 percent.

For those of you who are religiously inclined or in the military and won’t be sticking around to attend WSU for the next few semesters, the university still would recommend that you apply and defer your enrollment date. Scholarships also should be applied for before you leave, since eligibility for certain scholarships will change if you leave. Weber.edu/returntoweber even features instructional videos about it.

Utah’s schools are truly rolling with the punches and avoiding a possible fall off the fiscal cliff, whatever that means. Even though revenue loss and a drop in student enrollment numbers are completely inevitable, I still really hope this bill passes. In two years, when all these missionaries come back, I don’t see crowded hallways as a major problem. In fact, I welcome it. Bring it on.